I was recently browsing a website of the intelligentsia called Edge and noticed a page promoting a collection of their essays called This Book Will Make You Smarter. It featured some quotes from reviews in leading magazines, all very enthusiastic. This is my favourite:
....As infinitely fascinating and stimulating as This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking is, its true gift … is in acting as a potent rupture in the filter bubble of our curiosity, cross-pollinating ideas across a multitude of disciplines to broaden our intellectual comfort zones and, in the process, spark a deeper, richer, more dimensional understanding not only of science, but of life itself.
My word! Having written a couple of blurbs myself during the past year, when I read that I felt I had hardly done my friends justice in my praise of their (admittedly, less pretentious) books. But the standard is very demanding; it is not enough to be enthusiastic -- one has to be delirious and ready to fair swoon away with admiration.
It is not, however, a standard that real litterateurs admire. One of them writes:
Let’s be clear: blurbs are not a distinguished genre. In 1936 George Orwell described them as “disgusting tripe,” quoting a particularly odious example from the Sunday Times: “If you can read this book and not shriek with delight, your soul is dead.” He admitted the impossibility of banning reviews, and proposed instead the adoption of a system for grading novels according to classes, “perhaps quite a rigid one,” to assist hapless readers in choosing among countless life-changing masterpieces.
Last year the Guardian book blog noted a particularly egregious example of effusion over a novel and invited readers to indulge in a little one-upmanship by blurbing on The Da Vinci Code, being “as grandiloquent, as pompous, as affected as possible”.
In my opinion, this was the prize-winning one (a little long, but I think you’ll enjoy it):
"As I sat in my office, wearing my black suit, my heart trembled with awe as I turned the last page of The Da Vinci Code and I placed it on the desk (brown) with reverent hands.
The mystery of this book is not in the spine-tingling, mind-wracking, hair-raising, heart-stopping twists and turns that the novelist book writer Mr Brown has wrought on these pages (white), but in why ownership of a copy has not been made mandatory by law. It's every individual letter is a pearl that novelist book writer author Mr Brown, who has sandy blond hair, has formed out of the excrement of our English language, which is not fit to grovel at the feet of this towering genius’s MacIntosh word processor.
I buried a copy of this book in my father's coffin and he rose from the dead. Her tears of ecstatic joy when I read it aloud to her washed away my grandmother's cataracts. My chronic eczema disappeared once I'd finished the first chapter.
Sandy-haired, polo-neck shirted novelist book writer author scribe Mr Brown is a god placed upon this earth and I having started a church in his name in recognition of the words he has graced us with."
Perhaps you would like to have a go at this yourself -- on the book of your choice.
We feature a couple of books in our latest articles (no affected praise, though). R. J. Snell reviews a tribute to “A Good Man” -- Sargent Shriver, a significant figure in twentieth-century American liberal politics -- by his son, Mark Shriver. And we run an excerpt from a new book edited by US law professor Helen Alvare in which Catholic women, including Dr Alvare, “speak for themselves” about their experience of living their faith.
Also, following a huge interfaith meeting in Rimini, Italy, Robert Reilly reflects on a deep theme, the relation between human reason and “the infinite”; and George Friedman writes about Poland in the light of its precarious history.
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